Sending happy father's day wishes to fathers and men out there who love children. Not just their own. Mother's day and father's day are always sensitive days to me. They are complicated days because are you a mother/father are thickly layered questions and can be triggering in the heaviest of ways. I was at a store last week and overheard the cashier ask the customer on the phone "Are you a father?" There seemed to be a pause in his response. Perhaps the reception was bad on the phone, maybe he dropped the receiver and didn't hear the question, sure. Or maybe he needed time to let everything that could be complicated about the question just sit. Maybe he lost a child, wanted a child and couldn't have one, doesn't know where his child is... all sorts of scenes play in my head. Eventually he answered because I heard her say "Well happy father's day then." And she hung up.
As for me, I am thankful for my father, Joseph Reed, Jr. and if he was here I would be on the phone with him and he would undoubtedly be making me laugh as only he could. He is not here. Not in the way he was before I got that call in 2009. I miss him. Often. I miss, oddly, even what I don't miss about him. I miss him being on the other side of sober and the slurred word stories he would tell me that always began "Verily, verily" because "that's how Jesus talked to his disciples to let them know that he was being serious." I miss him starting the story from the beginning if I or anyone interrupted him. I miss the call when he asked me if I was dating anyone and I said no then he responded "Hnn! It was somebody cute at the sto! He might still be down there, I could go check if you wont me to." I miss the slew footed way he walked with his arms and fists George Jeffersoning behind his back with ripped work pants and brown leather zip church shoes. My father had his issues. Issues in his own hilarious ways he was trying to work out. Like when I asked him if he was taking the medication his doctor gave to him and he said "Nooooooooooo, I don't touch that stuff." And when I asked why he said "Because the doctor told me not to mix those meds with alcohol. So I don't take the meds." And then his gap tooth smile and laugh. "But I'm doin' better." He said sneakingly. "I used to drink one hundred proof. Now I only drink eighty-seven proof!" I miss my father. I really do. My father was the only man who accepted every single thing about me without judgement. My father was the only man I felt comfortable enough to tell any of my stories to. I miss him. I miss the way he loved his "DAWters!" That's how he said it. I miss how he meant that. I called him in tears I tried to hide once because someone tried to break into my apartment while I was there. The guy was just high and I knew who he was. My call was mostly out of frustration. "Do you want me to come down there and shoot him?" My father had a ready gun handy. Once he met a certain guy I was dating and told him "Looka here, I love my dawter so much!" And because he had an example for everything, "If we was all on a boat, say me, you and her, and a strong wind came and you and her fell off, then you shouldn't waste none of yo breafs callin' on me for help 'cause I'm gon save my dawter. But I like you though." I remember him telling me "Look, Ahm gonna die first, then ya mama, then you and Roshann can flip for it." He couldn't live without us, he said. And I believed him.
I remember the last story he told me before he died. I was living in Georgia and he was in California. It was chicken o'clock in the night / morning and he started in in the way he began stories. "Verily, verily." He was drunk. I didn't want to hear a drunk story in the night of the morning. But I listened. I am glad I listened. "The shark always get a bad rep. You know that?"
"What, Daddy? What?"
"The shark. You know what a shark is, don't you? Don't you?" Because 'don't you' was not rhetorical.
"Well the shark always get a bad rep."
"Why?" Because if you can't beat him join him.
"Think about it. If you ever hear somebody downstairs in yo kitchen in the middle of the night and you tip toe down there with a baseball bat, it ain't never ever gon be a shark." Pause for chuckle. "Think about it, if you ever walking in a dark parking lot to yo car and you hear somebody following you. When you turn around it ain't never ever gon be a shark." Another pause. And because his examples came in threes, "think about it, if you in a dark alley and something is after you, it ain't never gon be no shark." Pause, this time for my giggle. "In fact, the onlyist time a shark can ever get you is if you go in the ocean. The trick to life is knowing your ocean. So, if you are a crackhead then you can't live by the crack house, 'cause that's yo ocean. If you are a shopaholic, then you can't live by the mall, because that's yo ocean. The trick to life is knowing your ocean and staying away from it. And if a shark get you, you can't blame the shark because you in the ocean. The shark just think you food. You just gotta know yo ocean, okay?"
When he died I flew from Georgia and I walked into his impeccable room. And there taped on his wall in Christmas tape was my head shot. That made me sad. My photo there on his wall. It was a reminder to me that no man will love me like that. Not like that. Not the kind of love we shared. Though his parenting skills and accessibility when I was a child left a little to be desired I always knew he loved us. As an adult, he was there for me in the way I needed. He had the words, wisdom and honesty I needed.
I am a storyteller because of him. I will never fill his shoes. I will never be as funny or quick witted. But he wouldn't want me to be. I am proud that he reared me to be perfectly myself.